Pine Lawn Mayor Sentenced on Extortion Charges
St. Louis, MO – The mayor of Pine Lawn, Missouri, SYLVESTER CALDWELL, was sentenced to 33 months in prison on charges involving the extortion of cash payments from the owner of a local towing company and from the owner of a Pine Lawn convenience store. In addition to the prison sentence, he was also ordered to pay $5,500 restitution.
According to court documents, from December 2013 through April 2014, FBI agents were conducting an ongoing public corruption investigation into the activities of Sylvester Caldwell, who was Mayor of the City of Pine Lawn. As Mayor, he exercised authority and control over which towing company provided the primary towing service for the City. During the public corruption investigation, the owner of a towing company, who was cooperating with the FBI, met with Mayor Caldwell on several occasions for the purpose of making cash payments to the Mayor in order to remain as the primary towing service for Pine Lawn.
On at least five occasions, Mayor Caldwell met with the tow company owner at various locations and accepted cash payments in exchange for continuing to give work to the towing company. At times Mayor Caldwell used coded language when requesting the cash payments. For example, he commanded the tow company owner to place “green Mountain Dew in a cup,” which was code for directing that the cash be placed in a disposable cup. He also induced payments by threatening to use a competing towing company.
From at least February 2013 through September 2014, Mayor Caldwell also extorted numerous payments of money from the owner of a convenience store known as Pine Lawn Market. He attempted to disguise the payments as donations to the City of Pine Lawn. The owner paid the money to Mayor Caldwell out of fear that the Mayor would make trouble for the store. The owner of the store also allowed him to take goods from the store out of fear that his business could suffer economic harm if he refused.
Caldwell, Florissant, Missouri, pled guilty in April before United States District Judge Catherine D. Perry to one count of attempted extortion and one count of extortion.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Reginald Harris and Anthony Franks handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.